Saturday, 18 February 2017

Merganzer

During a walk around Westport Lake we spotter a lone Merganser on the water.  This is an unusual bird at this location.
Mergansers are fish eaters, usually seen on rivers and occasionally lakes.  They are often in small groups and can hunt co-operatively to catch small fish.
This appears to be a young bird which has settled here for a while.  The fish in the lake will support Great Crested Grebes and the occasional Cormorant, so a Merganser should be good to feed here.
This one was clearly staking a claim, giving other small water birds an aggressive snap if they came too close.

Friday, 10 February 2017

North Ronaldsay

The weather forecast for today was cold with possibilities of snow.  True to its word, the temperature fell to 1.5 degrees C and we have had our first flurries of snow.  After a quick trip to the shops I decided to bake bread and check out my latest simulator project.
North Ronaldsay in the Orkneys has a custom built airport to support its local community. The terminus is a small hut in a farmyard and the runways are made of compacted hardcore or grass.
The simulation I am working on is for X-Plane 11.  I already have a model of this airport made for Microsoft Flight Simulator X (FSX), but all of the elements need remaking for this new simulator.
The main elements of the airfield are made and working well.  I have had to exclude the resident airfield as it was far more sophisticated than the real thing.
The Ald Kirk, which is just off of one of the runway approaches was modelled using the windows from Langer Hall Church in Nottinghamshire.  The window elements of both churches are very similar.
The scenery mask for the church is quite simple.  It incorporates a large off white square on each side of the tower to make it more visible to aircraft on approach and takeoff.  
The Church model was created using SketchUp 2015 and saved as an X-Plane .obj file ready to load into the flight simulator.
I just need to add a few more local houses and the old light tower on the north shore before I put the finished airport on line.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Fire

 This morning as I went to get the car out of our garage, I noticed a dark column of smoke emanating from across the City and being blown overhead.  There was the recognisable acrid smell of burning rubber.
On the local radio, the explanation was that a plastic re-cycling plant at Milton was burning and several fire appliances were in attendance.  The advice was for locals to keep their windows and doors closed throughout the day.
 By 10 am we were at the RSPB reserve at Coombes Valley near Cheddleton.  This site is about 12 miles away from the fire at Milton (as the crow flies) and the smoke cloud is clearly visible, rising well over 1000 feet.
 By 12:30 the dark cloud of smoke was becoming more like a column of steam.  It was clear that the fire was coming under control, or the fuel was burned away to a large extent.
By mid afternoon we were back home and the fire was less prevalent in the atmosphere.  The smell of the chemicals was absent and a sign of relief was present in the neighbourhood.

BBC news

ITV news

Staffordshire Police 

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Local Birds

Last weekend was the RSPB big garden bird watch, which I do with Rosie in our garden.  In the following days I am always keyed up to spotting birds.  I spotted these birds on a stroll around the lake at Trentham Gardens.
We see a few Blue Tits at the feeders in a normal day, but during the bird watch we saw  one in  the last minute.
Another common visitor is the Great Tit, but this bird was absent during our bird watch.  There are lots of them around the Lakeside Cafe, where feeders are put out for them.

The most notable birds at Trentham are the Mute Swans.  Their numbers have increased over the last few years.  They are big birds and they need a good run to take off from the water.  Their wings make a whistling sound on the down beat.  Today they were flying in groups of 2 to 5 birds and circling the lake.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

On the bookshelf

I have spent a couple of days scanning some 110mm negative strips that were taken with a Kodak Instamatic in the 1970's and 80's.  It is a tricky format to digitise as the negatives are so small and grainy and I had been putting this off for some years now.
My delight was tangible as  I scanned an image that was so classic of its time.  We had lost a cat, and having spent a couple of hours searching the house, garden and locality - the truth dawned on us.
The little tyke was sitting quietly in the book shelves!

Smudge (Moo) 1989 - at our home in Spalding.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Garden Birds

This morning we were thinking about going for as walk, but the cold weather turned to a smattering of snow, so we decided to see how the day progressed.
After morning coffee, I watched the garden activity.  As always, the squirrels were a main attraction.
There is a robin (or perhaps a pair of robins) who patrols the edge of the garden frequently.
The squirrels seldom stray far from the bird feeders when the weather is cold.  I suspect they consume about half of the bird food that we put out.
The main reason for feeding the birds in my mind, is to maintain the local sparrow population, which has shown an increase in the last 20 years.  That is also why we keep the hedges around the garden.
Starlings are always on the lookout for food. and can often be the first birds to attack the freshly filled feeders.  They usually arrive a dozen at a time, all scrapping for the same feeder, but we do occasionally see a lone bird during the day.
Now that it is cold, the goldfinches are regular visitors again.  They will sit on the feeders and eat till they are full.  They seldom move aside for other birds and the sparrows treat them with respect.
The other regular visitors are tits.  You have to be fast on the trigger to catch a blue tit as they fly in, grab and run.  We also see great tits and occasionally long tailed tits.  The feeders are always a source of passive entertainment for us.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Last of the garden produce

For lunch today I harvested the last 3 leeks from the raised beds.  They ended up in a leek and potato soup, which was excellent on a cold and wet winters day.  This was the last of the garden produce to be harvested.
For dinner, Rosie defrosted the last pack of gooseberries which we put into the freezer last year, intending to use them between Christmas and New Year.  She made a crumble which was yummy.
It is now time to think about planning the next years harvest - I shall probably set some tomato seeds next week.